Greek officer back in court over teen’s shooting death
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A police officer accused of fatally shooting a Roma teenager in the head during a car chase over an alleged unpaid gas station bill appeared in court Thursday in northern Greece to provide further testimony after the charges against him were elevated to manslaughter with possible intent.
The 34-year-old officer remains free pending trial, with a bail condition banning him from leaving the country. He had originally been charged with a felony count of attempted manslaughter with possible intent over the Dec. 5 shooting of 16-year-old Kostas Frangoulis, but the charge was upgraded after the teenager died more than a week later. He has also been charged with a misdemeanor count of illegally firing his weapon.
The youth’s shooting led to days of protests, which often turned violent, by members of Greece’s Roma community and others, despite calls for calm from the teenager’s family and Roma community leaders.
Officers on motorbikes gave chase to Frangoulis, who was driving a pickup truck, after he allegedly drove off from a gas station without paying the 20-euro ($21) bill. Police have said the pickup truck had turned and tried to ram the motorbikes during the chase, while the police officer who fired two shots said he did so because he believed the lives of his colleagues were in danger, but that he was aiming for the car tires and not the driver.
The officer appeared in court Thursday to answer further questions after the charge against him was changed. His defense lawyer, Alexis Kougias, said the investigating judge accepted a request from the youth’s family for expert analysis to be conducted on footage of the incident from a CCTV camera, and for a special ballistics examination.
The Roma community has denounced the shooting as racially motivated. Several Roma men have been injured or fatally shot in recent years during confrontations with police while allegedly seeking to evade arrest for breaches of the law.
The case has put a spotlight on Greece’s Roma community, who face widespread discrimination and often live on the margins of society.